Date of Award


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Open Access


Political Science Department


Dr. Laurie Buonanno

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Masters of Public Administration and Non Profit Management

First Reader

Dr. Laurie Buonanno

Second Reader

Dr. Diane Oyler



When high profile child fatalities with previous Erie County Child Protection Services (CPS) involvement generated considerable negative media commentary questioning the competency of CPS, there was concern over the mental well-being of CPS caseworkers. Furthermore, a key problem to be resolved was the high turnover of CPS caseworkers, which is both a budgetary drain on the County due to the training costs involved with new caseworkers, but also deprives the Department of Social Services of experienced family and child welfare personnel. This study seeks to understand factors negatively affecting the CPS caseworkers. Previous research indicate that human service workers exposed to traumatic events can experience a reduction in compassion satisfaction and an increase in vicarious trauma and burnout. Government human services administration tends to be organized under the traditional public administration model of a rigid hierarchy in authority and decision making with tight supervisory structures and little opportunity (or encouragement) of opinions from front-line workers, which also can reduce CPS worker job satisfaction. Other potentially negative factors identified in the literature include perceptions of safety, the workplace environment, and supervisory styles. This study of Erie County CPS caseworkers utilized a convergent parallel mixed methods research design in order to analyze compassion satisfaction, burnout, and vicarious trauma (ProQOL instrument) and workplace safety and environment, organizational structure, and supervisory styles (focus groups). A single sample t-test conducted on the ProQOL results revealed that Compassion Satisfaction among the respondents was statistically significant (lower than the population mean) while Vicarious Trauma and Burnout were not statistically significant from the population mean. The qualitative phase (focus groups with CPS workers) uncovered significant dissatisfaction among CPS workers with respect to organizational factors, supervisory styles, and safety and environment. This study found that CPS was organized according to the traditional (hierarchical) public administration model in which CPS caseworkers were not empowered to have a voice within their agency and were not invited to participate in the policy-making process. Furthermore, it was found that CPS supervisors and front line staff were not trained in Trauma Informed Care practices. Thus, it was concluded that counterproductive organizational practices within Erie County have produced negative outcomes for the workers and may be a greater source of caseworker turnover than either the nature of the job itself or the recent negative perceptions of Erie County’s CPS division.